CAA Preview: Northeastern Basketball

nuHead Coach: Bill Coen (12th season)

Last Season: 15-16 (8-10, 6th in CAA); lost to Towson in CAA Quarterfinal

Projected Finish: 6th

Preseason All-Conference Selections: G Devon Begley (Honorable Mention), F/C Jeremy Miller (Honorable Mention)

 

 

Losses:

  • G T.J. Williams (21.4 ppg, 5.3 apg, 4.7 rpg; CAA Player of the Year)
  • F Alex Murphy (14.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Newcomers:

  • G Vasa Pusica (transfer from San Diego University)
  • G Derrick Cook (Langston Hughes/Fairburn, Ga.)
  • G Myles Franklin (Villa Park/Brea, Calif.)
  • F Tomas Murphy (Northfield Mount Hermon/Wakefield, R.I.)
  • F Jason Strong (Westminster Academy/Coconut Creek, Fla.)

by Matthew MacCormack

 

The 2017-18 season ushers in a new era of Northeastern Huskies’ basketball; life after T.J.

Point guard T.J. Williams exploded onto the scene last season, averaging 21/5/5 en route to a no-brainer selection as CAA Player of the Year. Williams went from averaging just 7 ppg in his junior season to being the undisputed focal point of the Husky offense as a senior.

But Williams in black and red is no more. The dynamic guard is on to the greener pastures of the NBA G-League. Gone, too, is Alex Murphy, a 6’8 combo forward who led the team in rebounding (5.6 rpg) and was the second leading scorer (14.1 ppg).

Therein lies the biggest question of the 2017-18 campaign; who will step up to replace this production?

The returning cast is, in a word, inexperienced – seven of the Huskies 12 active players are either freshman or sophomores.

Devon Begley an All-CAA Defensive selection and Preseason Honorable Mention, is the team’s only senior, and remains as the lone holdover from the 2014-15 Husky squad that won the CAA and nearly upset Notre Dame in the first round of the Big Dance. Begley posted a career-high 9.7 ppg last season, and found his niche as a 3-D wing and occasional playmaker. It’s possible Begley takes a Williams-like leap and becomes an All-Conference caliber player, but don’t count on it.

Around Begley are a cast of three juniors that will likely determine the Huskies’ success this season. Redshirt junior guard Vasa Pusica could find himself with plenty of ball-handling duties. The 6’5 Pusica averaged 8.5 points and 4 rebounds a game in his freshman year at U San Diego, and led the team in assists. The Huskies are thirsty for a playmaking point, and Pusica has the opportunity to deliver.

Center Anthony Green made huge strides on the defensive end last season, and the 6’10, 252 pound behemoth is a nice interior piece to build around.

Questions abound around 6’10 F/C Jeremy Miller. Miller entered Northeastern as a three-star recruit: an intriguing mix of size, length and shooting ability. After averaging 8.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg as a freshman, Miller regressed last season, largely due to an 11-game absence thanks to a knee injury suffered in a win at Michigan State.

Although Miller didn’t receive a medical redshirt, his classmate Donnell Gresham did. “Red” Gresham was a solid contributor in his freshman season, but missed all but four games with a hand injury suffered against LIU-Brooklyn. The redshirt sophomore has a good chance to earn a starting role, and is a great complementary ball-handler and spot-up shooter (42% from three in his freshman year).

Last year, a trio of freshman – G Bolden Brace, F Shawn Occeus and F Max Boursiquot – all saw extended playing time as injuries mounted later in the season. All three will have an opportunity to solidify their roles this season. Occeus is an athletic wing who flashed plenty of potential last season. Boursiquot is a do-it-all, undersized (6’5) four-man who profiles as a fantastic role player moving forward.

The most intriguing of the three, however, is Bolden Brace. The 6’8 sophomore has a sweet shooting stroke, and showed on multiple occasions last season that he can carry an offense. Brace dropped 20+ in back-to-back games in early February at William & Mary and James Madison, and then tied the school’s all-time record with 10 threes in a 40-point performance at Elon. If Brace can take a step as a playmaker, he might be something special.

Of the crop of four freshman, bigman Tomas Murphy is the most likely to play a large role this season. With his older brother Alex graduated, the 6’8 Tomas has a chance to earn big frontcourt minutes. Murphy was rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN. Players of that caliber rarely enter the CAA – you can thank the Murphy family’s close ties with coach Coen for this one.

Bottom Line: The media picked Northeastern to finish 6th in the CAA in the preseason poll, and that seems fair. Williams’ graduation leaves a massive hole in the playmaking department, but there’s a chance a more equal-opportunity offense opens things up for the young Huskies. Uncertainty is the name of the game here, and the development of players like Pusica, Miller, Gresham and Brace will likely determine how the season goes. If all goes right, the Huskies will be in the middle of the pack in the CAA, and the young guys will get plenty of time to hone their skills for the future.

 

Start a Conversation